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The Constitution and Public Policy in U.S. History

Edited by Julian E. Zelizer and Bruce J. Schulman

Publication Year: 2009

Despite its crucial importance in U.S. history, the study of the constitutional system fell out of favor with many historians and history departments for several decades during the latter half of the twentieth century. The dawn of the twenty-first century, however, has borne witness to a new interdisciplinary interest among scholars in reviving this important dialogue in American history. This book represents some of the most innovative contributions to this dialogue by a new generation of historians and legal scholars. The essays presented in this volume offer new insights into constitutionalism, legal culture, and the political arena, together contributing to an “ongoing reconceptualization of the historical relationship between the Constitution and public policy.” In this volume of "Issues in Policy History," Julian Zelizer and Bruce Schulman bring together eleven essays from renowned scholars Mary Sarah Bilder, Donald T. Critchlow and Cynthia L. Stachecki, Christine Desan, Morton Keller, Ajay K. Mehrotra, David Quigley, John A. Thompson, Christopher Tomlins, and Michael Willrich. By applying new archival research to questions of policy history and embedding constitutional history in its political context, these scholars breathe new life into the study of public policy and reaffirm Woodrow Wilson’s conclusion that the Constitution’s “spirit is always the spirit of the age.”

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: Issues in Policy History

Title Page, Copyright

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Editor’s Preface

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pp. vii-viii

The United States Constitution, drafted by the fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, was the first written constitution in modern history. The delegates who came to Philadelphia believed that a comprehensive...

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pp. 1-5

In 1787, Francis Hopkinson, author, lawyer, composer, and statesman, penned “The New Roof: A Song for Federal Mechanics.” A signer of the Declaration of Independence and committed Federalist, Hopkinson saw the new Constitution as a sturdy, weatherproof...

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Idea or Practice: A Brief Historiography of Judicial Review

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pp. 6-25

Judicial review may be the most publicly contested aspect of American constitutionalism. When courts void legislation, they implicitly seem to strike at the heart of the principle of separation of powers. The act inherently suggests that the elected legislature is not...

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From Blood to Profit: Making Money in the Practice and Imagery of Early America

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pp. 26-46

Money, wrote Pennsylvanian Francis Rawle in 1725, is “the vital spirit and blood of the body politick.” Is not money, another pamphleteer contended, “the blood of life, which circulates from member to member, throughout the whole body of all living creatures...

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Necessities of State: Police, Sovereignty, and the Constitution

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pp. 47-63

Over the last fifteen years, legal historians have been exploring conceptualizations of the state and state capacity as phenomena of police. In this essay, I offer a genealogy of police in nineteenth-century American constitutional law. I examine relationships among several...

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Constitutional Revision and the City: The Enforcement Acts and Urban America, 1870–1894

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pp. 64-75

Congressional enactment of the Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871 marked an unprecedented federalization of voting rights. The various election laws aimed to make real the promise of the recently enacted Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the constitution...

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“The Least Vaccinated of Any Civilized Country”: Personal Liberty and Public Heath in the Progressive Era

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pp. 76-93

Epidemic disease, like war, is the health of the state. Since the dawn of the American Republic, state and local governments have wielded powers both plenary and plentiful to defend the people against smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, and other pestilences. Individual liberty and...

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Forging Fiscal Reform: Constitutional Change, Public Policy, and the Creation of Administrative Capacity in Wisconsin, 1880–1920

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pp. 94-112

At the turn of the twentieth century, Wisconsin, like many northern industrial states, faced a profound fiscal challenge. As one concerned citizen succinctly explained, “The two great administrative problems before our people at this time are, first, the control of corporate...

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Woodrow Wilson and a World Governed by Evolving Law

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pp. 113-125

It is a regrettable feature of the scholarly literature on Woodrow Wilson that so little of it relates to, or attempts to integrate, all the different phases or various aspects of his career—as an academic political scientist, as a figure in American domestic politics, and as a shaper...

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The South Confronts the Court: The Southern Manifesto of 1956

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pp. 126-142

On Monday, March 12, 1956, Georgia’s senior senator, Walter George, rose in the Senate to read a manifesto blasting the Supreme Court. The Manifesto condemned the “unwarranted decision” of the Court in Brown as a “clear abuse of judicial power” in which the...

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State Constitutionalism and the Death Penalty

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pp. 143-156

Concerned that the United States Supreme Court’s abolition of the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia (1972) would not be sustained, abolitionists turned to state supreme courts. Through their efforts, two states succeeded in realizing that goal: California, briefly, and Massachusetts...

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The Equal Rights Amendment Reconsidered: Politics, Policy, and Social Mobilization in a Democracy

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pp. 157-176

In the early 1970s, fifty years after its first appearance in the U.S. Congress, the Equal Rights Amendment came the closest it ever would to ratification. The ERA declared: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State...

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Governance and Democracy: Public Policy in Modern America

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pp. 177-189

Each stage of our national development has had a distinctive form of public policy. And each has faced a core tension between the dictates of governance and the constraints of democracy. Economic or social interests, and advantage-seeking politicians, forge policies...


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pp. 190-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780271053400
E-ISBN-10: 0271053402
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271035345
Print-ISBN-10: 027103534X

Page Count: 201
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Issues in Policy History